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Arestas do Brasil / Edges of Brazil

Ceviche, misery and opulence

Bruno Peron, 23 March 2017

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In the last five years, corrupt politicians have been hunted as in few other moments of Latin American history. It is notable that Brazil, for example, has occupied endless pages of newspapers in many countries, since there is penalty reduction for “awarding accusation” of accused people and ruptures of agreements that used to be veiled. The fight against the usurpers of public money spreads in such a way to cite names such as that of the Peruvian economist and former president Alejandro Toledo, who no longer rules Peru because now he teaches for the prestigious Stanford University in the United States.

Alejandro Toledo was president of Peru from July 2001 until July 2006. The desire that preceded Toledo’s victory was to put an end to the era of Alberto Fujimori, who ran away from Peru to Japan because he was also accused of corruption; however, Fujimori was years later in 2005 imprisoned in a visit he made to Santiago in Chile and so extradited. There was in Peru a wish to elect a ruler who would approach its simplest people and restrain the uncontrolled market opening to foreign capital. Perhaps this could only happen later with the election of Ollanta Humala. In fact, this is the purpose that inspired many Latin American leaders at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

There would be no abandoning, however, of the schemes of bribes and tips that extended up to the dome of Latin American politics. This is how Odebrecht –which is a conglomerate of Brazilian companies that act in the fields of construction, energy, engineering and chemistry –went over its competitors for a market share with the offer of tips to Latin American rulers. Toledo is accused of having received US$ 20 million to favour Odebrecht in a concession that would result from the construction of a transoceanic highway between Peru and Brazil.

In one of these enterprises, Odebrecht would overprice its civil construction work and cover it with asphalt of a similar quality to that which is well known in the Brazilian bumpy cities. There would be a public expenditure well above what is necessary to build this highway between Peru and Brazil, and the Peruvian people would have lost resources of its social policies (housing, education, health). This bribing logic is very common between politicians and businessmen, as it has been broadcast regarding Eike Batista’s imprisonment in Brazil. Many of the costly and profitable businesses of Batista were conditioned by the payment of bribery to politicians, as the also arrested former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, used to take.

It is in a waste of responsibilities that Alejandro Toledo plunged, without measuring the consequences of enrichment and of his politics of influences. In February 2017, the Peruvian government emits a temporary arrest warrant of eighteen months against Alejandro Toledo and gives an international notice to capture him. It offers a reward of US$ 30 thousand to whoever provides any information in whatever country that takes to the former president Toledo’s whereabouts. Rumors indicate that he may be in the United States or in France.

The Peruvian justice accuses Alejandro Toledo of money laundering and influence peddling. It has been thought that, if Toledo did not owe anything to the Peruvian justice, he would show up without any shame to testify about the accusations that weigh over his shoulders; or he would do so if he were not afraid to be judged, as Eike Batista did. Toledo’s disappearance, however, indicates his negligence of the Peruvian people who he represented during five years and that there may be at least some truth in the accusation in force.

It is possible to widen the issue and affirm that the phenomenon that I analyse is effectively global. The veil of rotten fruit has fallen abruptly: the victory of Donald Trump in the United States and his grossly conservative view; the religious radicalisms in Asia and Europe; the persecution of the corrupt in Latin America. Most of them had everything to work out without falling into the temptations of money and power; and consequently without the need to enrich and influence through subjugation of each other.

Latin America’s countries have seen a turnaround on how to deal with issues of corruption. Impunity has its days counted. It is no longer accepted that the misery of many people funds the opulence of a few.